2011-04-19 14:50:59.961 GMT
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT A TOWN HALL MEETING SUBJECT: "SHARED RESPONSIBILITY AND SHARED PROSPERITY" LOCATION: NORTHERN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, ANNANDALE, VIRGINIA TIME: 10:33 A.M. EDT DATE: TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2011
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody! Hello! (Cheers, applause.) Hello, everybody. Thank you! (Cheers, applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat. All right. It's good to be back -
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- good to be back in Annandale, good -- good to be back at NOVA. How's everybody doing? (Cheers, applause.)
I want to make a couple of acknowledgements. First of all, Congressman Gerry Connolly is here. (Cheers, applause.) Dr. George Gabriel, the provost of Northern Virginia Community College, is here -- (cheers, applause) -- and the president, Bob Templin, is here.
I'm -- it is -- it is great to be back. I keep on coming back because Jill Biden tells me to keep on coming back. (Laughter, cheers.) I tend to listen to her. I always say Vice President Joe Biden's best quality is Jill Biden -- (laughter) -- though Jill couldn't be here today because she's teaching all day, and she does not skip class for anybody, including the president of the United States. (Laughter.)
What I want to do is just make a few quick remarks at the top and then I'm just going to open it up for questions. This gives me a chance to get out of the immediate environs of Washington and hear directly from voters and have a conversation with them, and so I'm grateful that all of you took the time.
You know, last week I laid out a plan to get America's finances in order. It was a plan for shared prosperity through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility. So before I take your questions, I want to talk a little bit about this plan briefly, because it goes to the heart of what's happening at this campus and schools like it all across America. And my plan does two big things.
First, it cuts spending, and it brings down the deficit. We all know how important that is. Just like any student on a tight budget -- and I'm assuming there are a few students on a tight budget here. Let's see a show of hands. Any students on a tight budget? (Laughter.) Yeah. (Chuckles.) I've been there. Just like you, America has to start living within its means. For a long time Washington acted like deficits didn't matter. A lot of folks promised us a free lunch.
So I think everybody needs to recall, we had a surplus back in 2000, 11 short years ago. But then we cut taxes for everybody, including millionaires and billionaires, we fought two wars, and we created a new and expensive prescription drug program, and we didn't pay for any of it. And as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. So we were left with a big deficit as I was coming into office.
And then we had the worst recession since the Great Depression, and that made it worse. Because in a recession, two things happen: number one, the federal government helps out states and localities to prevent teacher layoffs and firefighters and police officers from being laid off. And all that costs money. It requires more money to provide additional help to people who've lost their jobs, or are in danger of losing their home.
So the federal government is putting more money out, but because of the recession, it's take -- it's taking less money in in tax revenues, and so that grows the depression -- the -- the deficit further.
Now if we don't close this deficit, now that the economy has begun to grow again, if we keep on spending more than we take in, it's going to cause serious damage to our economy. Companies might be less likely to set up shop here in the United States of America. It could end up costing you more to take out a loan for a home or for a car because if people keep on having to finance America's debt, at a certain point they're going to start charging higher interest rates.
We won't be able to afford investments in education or clean energy or all the things that we care about because we know it'll help drive our economy and create jobs.
So we've got to tackle this challenge, and I believe the right way to do it is to live up to an old-fashioned principle of shared responsibility. That means everybody has to do their part.
So what my plan does is, it starts with combing the budget for savings wherever we can find it, and we had a good start a few weeks ago when both parties came together around a compromise that cuts spending but also kept the government open and kept vital investments in things that we care about. We need to build on those savings, and I'm not going to quit until we've found every single dime of waste and misspent money. We don't have enough money to waste it right now. I promise you that. We're going to check under the cushions -- (laughter) -- you name it.